Understanding children's mental health & emotional wellbeing

What is Normal (Key Stage 1)

Years 1 & 2 (Age 5-7)

This is a very busy time of growth and covers a wide range of specific skill development.  It should be noted that all children develop at different rates dependant on many factors which need to be considered when evaluating how well a child is developing.

Children between the ages of 5 and 7 are becoming much more independent in their exploration of the world around them.  This is noticeable within their physical, emotional and social development. They have a greater mastery over their own bodies and like to carry out tasks for themselves.  This sometimes causes tension if they need to take more time than is available or if they do not fully understand the risks that some tasks may carry e.g. making a hot drink.

At such times limits placed upon them may be perceived as being unfair.  Frustration is often experienced when tasks cannot be mastered quickly enough or the child feels that the end product is not what they anticipated. These frustrations can take the form of temper outbursts or giving up and refusing to try again for a while.  Enabling a child to take personal responsibility and having clear expectations of them is crucial in maintaining good mental health.

During this time children can cope with longer periods of separation from their care givers and are able to wait for longer periods before getting their needs met.  Socially they enjoy interacting with their peers and will play happily either on their own or in twos or small groups, increasingly engaging in make believe play.  Turn taking and cooperative play progresses well and competitive play becomes a feature in their interactions.

Children become more aware of each others’ feelings and the ability to show empathy is seen.  Fears develop during this stage, the most common being of  such things as the dark or imagined baddies.  Anxieties may become more apparent as a sense of shame develops and comparing themselves with others increases.  Approval from adults is sought, often as a reassurance that they are doing well, and this is linked to a growing appreciation of rules, which must be adhered to!

Children are keen to learn new skills and with a little encouragement and lots of praise will try most things.  Children can present as self confident and some are happy to demonstrate their developing skills whilst others may be shyer.  However, being self-critical of their work and achievements can become an issue.